Published: Thu, February 07, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

How the Brexit 'backstop' may scotch May's withdrawal deal

How the Brexit 'backstop' may scotch May's withdrawal deal

In her efforts to break the impasse over her Brexit deal, May signalled she will seek changes rather than outright removing the backstop, which is created to preserve the open border between Northern Ireland and European Union member state Ireland.

Mrs May will meet Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, tomorrow (local time) to demand legally binding changes to the Irish border arrangements of the divorce deal or face the prospect of a disorderly no-deal Brexit.

The prime minister said she was in Belfast "to affirm my commitment to delivering a Brexit that ensures no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and Ireland - which is unshakable".

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar held a press conference with Mr. Tusk in Brussels, where both leaders addressed the ongoing Brexit negotiations.

On January 29, the House of Commons narrowly backed an amendment tabled by Conservative MP Graham Brady that would see the Prime Minister return to Brussels in search of alternative arrangements for the Irish backstop, whose current terms and conditions have proved unpopular with pro-Brexit Tories and the DUP.

"More than ever this has demonstrated why we need to be part of an worldwide treaty that a prime minister, parliament or government of the day can not abrogate it".

But the Northern Irish party which props up May's minority government says it could endanger the province's place in the United Kingdom, while Brexit supporters in May's Conservative Party worry it would lock the country into European Union rules for the long term.

The Taoiseach also confirmed that British Prime Minister Theresa May will visit Dublin late on Friday to discuss Brexit.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on March 29, but no withdrawal agreement has been approved because Britain's Parliament voted down May's plan last month, in part because of concerns about the border plan, known as the backstop.

May is now discussing "alternative arrangements" to the backstop with members of her own party.

And this is why we insist on the backstop.

Sammy Wilson, the DUP's Brexit spokesman in Westminster, called Tusk a "devilish trident-wielding Euro maniac" who disrespected those who voted to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said that backstop remains "the only operational solution available" for an orderly exit of Britain from the EU.

The utility of the Northern Ireland protocol has been questioned with Corbyn referring to "various issues surrounding the problems of the backstop" being raised in the meeting with May, saying it was "a problem where we go into an agreement which is one-sided".

At the heart of the changes being demanded by Conservative Eurosceptics is the removal of the so-called "backstop", created to keep the Irish border open in the absence of a broader trade deal.

He said the "pro-Brexit stance" of May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn meant that "today, there is no political force and no effective leadership for remain".

Whatever totally legitimate criticism we want to make of the government's deal, of which there are many; picking out the backstop is not the right one.

The EU has repeatedly said it will not amend the backstop, but Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz suggested the bloc could agree to some form of legal assurances on how it might be used.

Mr Wilson argued that it was possible to have no hard border without using Theresa May's backstop.

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